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Hit Parade

Alright so I’m going to give up the whole writing about each day thing for all those days that I missed. Now I’m just going to talk about the significant bits. Call it the Best of Budapest. Or don’t.

The Esterhazy Palace

It was the first stop in Hungary. It’s a place for a rich man called Esterhazy who loved himself. He built himself a palace to rival the best palaces in Europe. But visiting straight after having been in St Petersburg which has more palaces than they know what to do with, this wasn’t all that impressive. But it was perhaps symbolic of lots of what I’ve found in Hungary. That is, lots of things that are at best taking second place at best to something else in Europe. They’re like the little country who tried. If they were in Little Athletics they would have got the “For Consistent Effort” award. I got that award.

Our flat

When we first arrived in Budapest, after driving around the city getting lost for a while we got to our flat. It belongs to someone who knows someone who is related to someone who may be related to us. Or something like that.

It’s this big, high ceilinged, one bedroom flat right in the centre of the city. The building it’s in is this really old building with pointy bits on top. It’s got a grand, decrepit staircase when you first come in and a lift that is designed to hold one person who weighs no more than 56kgs. I’m not making that up.

Every unit has its front door that looks out onto a court yard, so you can stand on the inner balcony and look up and down and see every other door in the building. There a lots of hollow buildings like this in the city. It’s very cool.

I love this place.

Parliament House

Very lavish. The designer was given instructions that it had to be better than the one in London.

We went to visit on our first full day in Budapest. It was pretty funny. They made us all line up outside the gates so that we could be admitted into the grounds to the ticket office where we lined up to buy tickets. From there we had to leave the grounds again and line up in the line for people with tickets. Then we were allowed back into the grounds to line up at the metal detector. Finally, we made it into the building where we were whisked around by a tour guide and followed by two men with guns then whisked back outside again. It was a very special experience.

The Shoes

On the bank of the Danube River there is a monument to the Jews who were shot by Nazis and the Arrow Cross into the Danube in 1944. It is a collection of empty, cast iron shoes, to symbolise the people who were shot and killed there.

As we stood on the bank my Grandfather told us the stories of how these people were killed. And he told us how our relatives, his cousins, uncles and aunts, people who he knew and were friends with him, were killed there on that bank.

I find it difficult to comprehend the tragedy that has taken place in this city and the pain that my Grandfather has had to live with over these years. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to live through those times. To loose friends and relatives to easily, to see death so regularly.

I am truly blessed to be alive. I am blessed to live with the peace we have.

The Relo-Bash

On Friday afternoon we had a relo bash with a bunch of distant relations. Grandpa booked out a room at the Radisson Hotel and got it filled with cake, drink, tables and a waiter. Then over the next few hours we met lots of people who, after consulting the family tree, we discovered are at best 4th or 5th half cousins of ours. But even that might be a little to close. They were all lovely people. I was expecting them all to be old, but there were people from the age of 10 up to, well, very old. There was a man who I was told is the most famous Artificial Intelligence Engineer in Hungary (but it’s hard to check that claim. There was a journalist. A maths professor. A teacher. And other people. They were all interesting. I did enjoy myself and I like cake. I’m pretty sure though that I’ll never see these relatives again and we’ll all get on with our lives knowing that we once ate cake with some very distant relatives one hot Friday afternoon in Budapest.

St Stephen

St Stephen was the first king of Hungary. He used to be called Oooff (or something like that) and he was a tribal leader 1010 years ago. But then he wanted to rule all Hungary so he wrote to the Pope and said “Mr Pope, if you send me a crown I will give you a whole nation of Christians” so the Pope sent a crown, Christened Oooff Stephen and made him King of Hungary. King Oooff kept up his side of the bargain and said to Hungary, become a Christian or I’ll cut your head off. So they became Christians. Deal done.

When Oooff died his whole body decayed except his right hand. His hand remained well preserved and it has been counted as a miracle, so he became a Saint, Saint Stephen.

It’s a very inspiring story. His hand is still around today. They keep it in St Stephen’s Basilica which is just down the road from our flat. We tried to go and have a look this afternoon by the hand was no longer on display.

St Stephen is on the 10,000 forint note and he’s an angry looking man. I wouldn’t want to try and marry his daughter.

At that concludes the end of the Best of Budapets Volume 1 tune in for next time I have a free 45 minutes to write about all my other exciting tidbits of Magyar Magic.